WARNING: First Trigger warning of story; scene contains death, injuries, blood, and some gore.
USD: ~17 days after Tears of Fire arrival to 92 Pegasi, after finishing their meal
Location: Ackman Station, Main Concourse, Annex 3
Alex walked with a cheerful step, following the route Nameless had given them. Jaco’s had soon filled up to almost standing room only. It had surprised her in how fast it happened, and she had started to feel a bit self-conscious. But nothing, absolutely nothing could kill the excitement from eating there. She had graciously thanked Jaco and promised to return, soon.
Like as soon as they had money and could take some back to the ship with them.
Humming to herself she tried her best to ignore the slowly decaying maintenance and actual rust on some surfaces as they crossed onto a lower deck of the annex. There were fewer and fewer people around, and the businesses hidden behind cold neon lighting hardly counted as inviting. She wasn’t exactly sure what services they even offered, but it was a seemingly stark contrast in such a short space.
Everyone was armed, as well.
No one bothered them, or paid them much mind though, which suited Alex just fine.
“There’s no stairs?” Elis looked unhappy.
Alex looked at the map, “I don’t think so, at least not nearby. Why, what’s wrong with the elevator?”
“Nothing. Just a professional avoidance if possible.”
Alex knew that Elis liked to exercise, it was probably a very important requirement for staying as fit as she was. It was one of the few things she had requested for her quarters.
The pleasure of exercise, other than the martial arts, didn’t really click with Alex, and she was a bit grateful that the nanites took care of that bit for her.
Unlike the rest of the area, the elevator seemed well cared for. A polished mirror greeted them, and Alex smiled at their reflection. They didn’t look half bad in them!
After stepping inside and setting their destination the doors closed promptly. The quiet sound of distant voices was suddenly replaced by the hum of the station and then a louder hum of the elevator taking them lower.
Halfway to their floor, Nameless blared at her, the rapid clip of its voice something she had never heard before.
[WARNING: Twelve heavily armed individuals have encircled destination egress. Elevator abort function, non-operative. Attempting emergency stop: failure. Hostile intentions probability 95% confidence. Avatar protection priority: Shrike Combat Drones dispatched. Emergency voice synthesis report and request for assistance dispatched to Station Security–Iron Horse Mercenary Company–Port Authority Office–MilTech Arms Inc. Fastest Friendly Intervention Possible: ETA: 5:56. Expect possible delay. Fire support mission: Impossible. Indirect suppression mission: Impossible.]
Even as Alex was trying to process the message, Elis shoved her hard into the front corner of the elevator. “Stay there. Don’t move.”
Nameless continued to chatter rapidly, and Alex realized that he wasn’t talking to her. She was listening in, but the terminology was foreign to her, and Alex realized he was rapidly filling Elis in with as much detail on the situation as possible. Listening intently, Elis reached down to adjust her belt, sliding her pistol and holster to be behind her and not visible from the front or side.
[Notice: Twelve semi/automatic rifles, confirmed visual. Pistol sidearm equipped. No heavy ordinance or explosives detected. Tactical gear analysis; insufficient to stop pulse rounds. Tac Ops training suspected. Clustered open room, multiple cover positions, elevator exit: open area, no cover. Hostile Formation follows: Four fronts, cover. Two left flank, clock 10, concealed. Three right flank, clock 1, two concealed, one cover. Two far, front. One front, close, in open. Good hunting.]
Still processing the fact that Elis had taken the rifle sling off her shoulder and shoved it into her hands, Alex swallowed and started removing the straps. She managed to get the weapon out just before the elevator arrived. Elis reached over and flicked off the safety for her, which was good because she had forgotten that was a thing.
Alex swallowed her throat dry, “Ok.” She didn’t understand what Elis was planning, but the other girl’s right hand was alternating between clutching a fist and opening.
As soon as the elevator dinged, Elis raised her arm to look at her wristwatch. The gesture confused Alex as Elis walked out of the elevator alone without even looking up. Turning her eyes to the mirror she spotted one man in the open, and her HUD overlay suddenly highlighted multiple assailants in a vivid yellow infrared. Her stomach turned, there were so many of them and they had Elis surrounded already!
A cold voice suddenly shouted, “Freeze right there!”
Elis suddenly stopped and looked up, then raised her hands slowly.
“Where the fuck is the other one?”
Alex realized her hearing was being enhanced by Nameless, but the assistance didn’t seem to be of great use.
“Thomas, go check the fucking elevator!”
Alex watched as two men from the front stepped forward, rifles covering Elis while the man standing in the open started toward the elevator. Alex wondered why the doors weren’t shutting automatically, and suspected it had to do with the reason the emergency stop hadn’t worked.
Unsure of what to do, Alex gripped the rifle in her hands tightly. She couldn’t just start shooting, not with Elis in the crossfire and in the open like that!
It was Elis who moved first.
Just as Thomas passed her, Elis’s arm shot out and grabbed his wrist as she spun, a sudden jab to his throat stunned him and somehow she pulled her sidearm and pistol whipped him in the solar plexus.
In a seeming disregard for their friend, the two riflemen in front opened fire with multiple rapid three round bursts, but Elis had already grabbed hold of Thomas and used him as a body shield, dragging him toward the nearest cover to the left of the elevator.
Alex’s ears rang from every gunshot, it was absolutely the loudest thing she had ever heard, even louder than the impacts that the Tears had taken. The staccato of the bursts forced her hands to her ears until Nameless adjusted the volume to a bearable level. A sudden wailing alarm punctuated the sound and the station lighting flipped to a flashing red, casting everything in vivid pulses of red and black.
Alex started to lean out from her corner in the elevator and try to take aim on one of their assailants, but an immediate shout and shower of bullets forced her to tuck back in instantly, the elevator’s mirror shattering in an explosion.
“One, Primary Target, Elevator!” Someone shouted, and the reply came back immediately, “Flank! Flank! Move in!”
Alex heart pounded in her chest, there was literally nowhere to go, she was pinned in. She looked over her shoulder, her infrared vision working to highlight all the actors for her.
Elis had not been still. She had dropped the deceased Thomas as soon as she rounded a column, coming up on the side of two of their attackers and immediately firing. All three fired at the same time, a single round slamming into Elis’s shoulder pad and sending her twisting for a moment, but her two shots had put a pulse round in each man’s chest and their tactical bulletproof vests did nothing to stop the sudden cavities of fire that erupted. They were both dead before they hit the ground.
Their formation broken, Elis immediately recovered, and then took off into a sprint toward where they had been.
“Delta, Epsilon, down! Hostile flanking right!”
Recovering from the shock, Alex realized she could poke her rifle around the corner and fire blindly, so she did so. The Pulse rifle had a 500-round magazine, and was capable of fully automatic fire, so she held down the trigger in a ten second burst.
[Notice: Adjusting Avatar motor controls to direct fire.]
Her arm locked up in a familiar sensation, adjusting the angle of the rifle. She hoped it had least made some of the attackers stop paying attention to Elis for a second.
A return non-stop barrage started hammering the elevator, and she realized she had at least pissed off someone. Shards of glass, plastic, and metal erupted from every impact and Alex was forced to raise her hand to protect her face.
“Fuck the grab, just take her out and let’s go!”
The voice was much closer than the last, and Alex felt a sudden panic, she could hear rushed footsteps approaching. She pulled herself back onto her feet dropping the rifle and pulling her pistol, the smaller weapon being easier to handle in the confines of the corner. She could see his outline clearly.
There was more gunfire exchanged in the distance, but she couldn’t spare the glance as she focused. The attacker reached the elevator and she prepared to pull the trigger when a sudden blast smashed into his back. Collapsing, he fell onto the elevator’s floor face first. A gaping hole in his chest that reached all the way to the elevator’s steel floor that was turning crimson even though there was smoke rising from the charred edges of the hole. A horrible smell of viscera assaulted Alex’s nose and she had to fight back a impulse to hide her face in crook of her elbow.
Turning her sight back to the continuing exchange of gunfire she spotted Elis taking cover under something while four more men flanked around her. They all had their backs to the elevator. Looking around Alex was confused as to where all the others had gone, but not wanting to leave Elis in a lurch, she took a deep breath then rounded the corner and sprinted to the nearest cover, a steel column in front and to her right.
She wasn’t noticed immediately, but the man closest turned and spotted her just as she reached safety.
“Primary Target, engaging!” came the clipped yell, and two bursts of fire whizzed by her.
“Fuck off! If you run, you might live!” Alex shouted, anger in her voice, but it was mostly an attempt to distract them while she looked for a better positioned piece of cover.
“Fuck you bitch!” More bullets slammed into the heavy steel column she had tucked behind. She was stuck, again. She could see Elis trading fire with the other three, but she seemed to have solidified her position after Alex took one of the goons off her. A stalemate was not what Alex wanted, she started to form a plan when she spotted another infrared signature running down the hall toward them. Her stomach sank, he was in a prime position to flank Elis!
Her fear suddenly evaporated along with her plan as the color flipped from yellow-orange to a green.
The man stopped, raised an oversized rifle with a bipod and sat it down on something before a loud eruption overwhelmed the smaller caliber rifles and pulse rounds being exchanged.
The man that had been targeted on her Hud blinked out, and she poked her head around her cover to confirm. His head looked like it had been crumpled in by something, his helmet a shattered wreck of ruined plastic and metal.
Spotting a chance, she sprinted forward to a metal barricade; she had a good view of the three engaged with Elis and took aim. Her HUD highlighted them with marks and she pulled her pulse rifle’s trigger. One went down immediately, and the other two noticing her fired back forcing her to duck down. The gunfire continued, but after a few seconds everything finally went silent.
Alex took stock, no more enemies.
“Elis! Are you OK?” Alex shouted, coming out to head to her friend, the volume of her voice surprising her. Heading directly to Elis’s position she found the other girl bleeding from her arm. Her uniform was ruined, absolutely covered in red splotches, black soot stains, and debris.
“M’ fine. Just need a sec to breathe.”
Alex felt a bite of concern, but if Elis told her she was fine, then she probably was.
Alex turned her attention to the man who had came to their assistance. He had broad shoulders, and a scratchy full beard. He was decked out in a set of tactical gear, but it was the massive anti-material rifle that drew attention. He looked at her steadily, “Captain Alex?”
“Yes, and my Master-Sergeant. Thank you for your assistance.”
He sat down his rifle propped up against the wall and then reached over his shoulder to pull off a bag with a cross on it, and then set it down on a crate. “Medkit, thought someone might need it from all the noise.”
Elis didn’t hesitate, “Thanks for the assist.” She went right to it and started doing her own first-aid.
The man turned back to Alex, “Some terrified LT called me at my shop, saying their Captain was in deep shit. I was a bit confused, but he explained you were enroute to my shop as a customer when you were ambushed.”
His gaze turned to one of the nearby dead bodies with a missing limb and head.
"Not very often there’s a firefight onboard station, much less against a tactical ops team.”
He looked back to her.
“Wyles Hammok, MilTech Arms.” He paused then nodded to the rifle in her hands, “Said you had something worth my time.”
Alex could hear the voices of shouting men approaching.
[Notice: Friendly units have arrived.]
Great timing, she thought, but her attention was now focused on the man in front of her.
Checking her rifle and setting it to safe before pulling its sling over her head, she offered it to him. She was proud her hands weren’t still shaking.
“I don’t think you’ll be needing to do any test firing.”
He chuckled, “No. No I don’t think I will.”
Now if she only knew who had just tried to kidnap and murder her and Elis.